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WHO Convening Meeting In One Week To Explore Opinions Surrounding H5N1 Bird Flu Research

NPR’s health blog “Shots” previews an upcoming WHO-convened meeting to discuss the recent news that two research teams have created H5N1 bird flu strains that are easily transmissible among ferrets, which are used as lab models for humans. Fears that terrorists possibly could use the information prompted the U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity in December to request the scientists redact some information prior to publishing their study results and investigators in January to institute a 60-day moratorium on bird flu research, the blog notes.

“Twenty-two people have been invited to an initial meeting at WHO headquarters in Geneva, which will be held February 16 and 17, says Keiji Fukuda, assistant director-general for Health Security and Environment at the WHO. But on Wednesday, he said, they were still not fully sure of all of the people who will be coming,” the blog writes. According to the blog, “The most urgent, practical issues that could be discussed at the WHO meeting include things like how the research could be published without revealing sensitive information, while still allowing the full findings to be available to public health researchers around the world. Discussions may also cover what additional research should go forward on the lab-created viruses — and under what conditions” (Greenfieldboyce, 2/9).